Empathetic Design: Putting People First

Axis Architecture Blog Post

Interior design is often misunderstood, underestimated, or dismissed as superficial. But design is more than pillows and paint chips – it prioritizes the human experience. It puts people at the center of each project, and focuses on creating spaces that feel as good as they look. But to create environments that feed the subconscious, there’s one thing we must do – empathize.


photo by Samuel Zeller


In a 2016 interview with Icon, London-based designer Ilse Crawford talked how interior projects can be shortchanged.

“Typically, interiors people end up at the end of the chain, often left with the budget for a few chairs,” she said. “Really, they should be included at the beginning, when you’re trying to understand the purpose of a building and the life that will be lived in it.”

Here at Axis, interior design is not an afterthought. From the start, we observe, strategize, and empathize. We determine who will use the finished space, and how those individuals will use it. Questions like, “How will employees connect to one another?”, “How will the environment provide a stimulating atmosphere?”, and “How does the space upgrade the everyday?” also help us create an intrinsic environment. It’s how we begin to understand your wants and needs – and learn how a space can engage your senses and tap into your emotions.

Think of your go-to restaurant, for example. Or picture a hotel, coffee shop, or small business you frequent. Ask yourself what you like about it, and consider how you feel when you are inside the space. Are you relaxed? Energized? Pensive? The vibe dramatically influences the mood, motivation, and behavior of both visitors and employees. The atmosphere also provides a physical connection to a company’s brand, and makes the space an experience.

Because we spend nearly 90 percent of our lives indoors, people-focused design is a must. As Ilse Crawford said, “How [buildings] are designed really affects how we feel, how we behave … ultimately, design is a skill to enhance our humanity.”

Spaces that put human needs at the forefront add meaning and depth, and satisfy the subconscious. For example, think about the last time you went shopping – did you feel overwhelmed, or did you shop ‘til you dropped? Inviting storefronts and upbeat music encourage browsing, while crowded aisles and dim lighting can turn be turn-offs. Natural light also affects how individuals feel inside a space. That’s why each of our healthcare projects incorporates glass curtain walls or skylights – daylighting helps reduce stress, and provides a visual sense of respite.

By prioritizing comfort over pageantry, we ensure every space supports and enhances human behavior.  After all, interior design isn’t about what’s trendy – it’s about creating an experience. Everyone deserves access to good design, and empathy is the starting point.

To learn more about how empathic design, contact Kathleen Lemaster at 317.264.8162 or at klemaster@axisarch.com.